Minister’s statement on poisoned drug deaths in October

Press Release

Dec. 9, 2021

VICTORIA – Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has released the following statement regarding the BC Coroners Service’s report on illicit drug toxicity deaths for October 2021:

“It is heartbreaking that we continue to lose more lives to toxic drugs, and October was particularly tragic with over 200 deaths, the most ever recorded in a month. No words can replace a loved one lost. I feel British Columbia’s grief and frustration. Almost every person in the province knows someone whose life has been touched by the poisoned drug crisis. I am so sorry for each loss and send strength to everyone who is mourning someone they love.

“It has been a very difficult year for so many people in British Columbia. We’ve endured floods, wildfires, heat waves and the confirmation of unmarked graves at former Indian Residential School sites. And on top of the direct challenges of COVID-19, the drug supply has become increasingly toxic.

“In 2012, illicit fentanyl was present in 5% of the illicit drug toxicity deaths. This year, it has been detected in 85% of drug toxicity deaths – this increase is staggering.

“As we approach the holiday season, my thoughts are with every person in our province who has been affected by these crises and is lonely, grieving or feeling uncertain. This time can be especially difficult for those suffering from addiction, and I’m urging everyone to stay safe, and to look out for one another. Highly unpredictable, poisoned drugs are circulating, so it is vitally important to use safer drug practices, whether you use frequently or occasionally.

“Please do not use alone. Download the Lifeguard app, buddy up, get your drugs checked, start with a small amount and go slowly. Please also keep naloxone close. Find an overdose prevention or safe consumption site near you. They save lives. For more ways to stay safer, visit: stopoverdose.gov.bc.ca

“And reach out for help if you need it:

  • Call 310-6789 for crisis emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health.
  • Call 1 800 784-2433 if you are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including thoughts of suicide.
  • ​Call 1 800 588-8717 for culturally aware crisis support for Indigenous Peoples in B.C.
  • Call 1 800 663-1441 for alcohol and drug information and referral.

“As we face the most devastating year on record, we continue to do everything we can to turn this drug poisoning crisis around. We are expanding substance-use treatment and recovery services in our health-care system and leading the country on decriminalization and prescribed safer supply. We are also expanding our prescribed safer supply program, to help separate more people from the toxic illicit drug supply. These measures will save lives. And we are committed to do much more until no person is left behind.”

Learn More:

Updated actions on the drug poisoning response: https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/escalated-drug-poisoning-response-actions-1

Contact:

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions
Communications
250 880-2378

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect

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